Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, whose patients refer to her as “Dr. E.,” has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and a Master’s degree in physical therapy. She developed Neuro-Regenerative TrainingTM, a revolutionary technique for enhancing performance grounded in neuroscientific principles.
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo founded Elevate Sports Psychology to work with athletes who want to enhance their performance and give them science-supported techniques to help them improve their thinking. Athletes understand and gain new strategies they can utilize throughout their training and competitions to enhance their overall peak performance and self-confidence, focus, and resiliency.
Dr. E has been a regular on shows like Dr. Oz, The Steve Harvey Show, CNN, and the TODAY Show, to name a few. She has also provided her professional insight in essays for outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Success Magazine. She has been a keynote speaker for organizations like Coca-Cola, 3M, and MGM events worldwide.
Her message strikes a powerful chord with people all around the world who are searching for deeper levels of accomplishment that have a greater purpose. Dr. E’s work with numerous A-list athletes, celebrities, and CEOs has earned her the title of “America’s most trusted celebrity psychologist,” as she has shown them the path to overcoming personal obstacles and realizing their full potential.
Dr. E chats with David’s Guide to discuss sports psychology and how it can help athletes perform at their best. Read more on the Q&A below:
What is sports psychology and how does it help athletes?
According the American Psychological Association, “Sport psychology is a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations.” In essence, it looks at how physical performance and mental well-being impact each other.
What you say to yourself impacts not only how you feel, but also how you perform. Sports psychology teaches athletes specific mind skill training techniques to help optimize success in their sport.
I found a company called EleVive (“Elevate your mindset; thrive in life”). Here, we teach athletes the specific mind skills training they need for optimal performance.
At EleVive, we work with athletes to help our athletes promote:
- Enhanced recovery from an injury
- Greater confidence while performing
- Optimal coping with the pressures of competition
- Improved ability to manage emotions
- Getting and staying in The Zone
- Upgrade coping skills with setbacks or errors
- Increasing probability of next level recruitment
- Gaining the edge over competitors
Athletes train day and night to master and perfect their skills. Aside from physical training, what other trainings can athletes engage in to be better at their chosen sport?
Addressing one’s mindset is often an untouched potential to really help athletes perform even better. When athletes can understand how their mind works and learn the tools of how to make their mind work for versus against them, their performance improves.
For example, when an athlete makes a mistake or experiences an unwanted event, they will often get stuck in their minds, beating themselves up for what happened. This can hinder their performance during the rest of the competition. Whether it is a golfer who missed a putt, a basketball/tennis/lacrosse/hockey player who missed a shot or a gymnast who unexpectedly falls, this error can negatively impact the rest of their performance. At EleVive, we teach athletes the skills to overcome such setbacks so they can perform to their fullest potential.
What does “rewiring your brain” mean?
Every thought you have are just nerves firing in a certain pattern within your brain. In psychology, we have a saying, “nerves that fire together wire together.” This means that the more you have a particular thought, the more likely you are to happen again and again and again. It can become automatic. In fact, we often have thoughts we are not even aware of, but we are aware of how the impact they have. Our thoughts impact how we feel and what we do.
Thoughts such as “I have to perform perfectly or else I will disappoint my coach/team/parent” or “I cannot mess up or else I will never get the offer,” can lead to greater stress and poorer performance.
Many athletes have certain, unhelpful beliefs that are so ingrained in their mind, despite not being aware of them. And these beliefs can impact performance. By “rewiring their brain,” they can optimize their mindset, allowing them to compete at their highest potential.
How can an athlete rewire their brain effectively?
The first step to having an athlete rewire their brain effectively is to be aware of what they are saying to themselves. I often ask my athletes the following question, “if you could stick a microphone in your brain, what would you hear yourself saying?”
Despite having what scientists estimate are 60,000 thoughts racing through our minds every day, very rarely do we stop and assess what they are. However, even if we aren’t aware of our thoughts, they are impacting how we feel and what we do. So, identifying what those thoughts are is vital.
At EleVive, we then teach athletes the skills to change their thinking. This is not about superficial affirmations, but rather a process to help them change their beliefs and thoughts so they are more accurate and helpful.
The beauty is, when we work with athletes, this process of rewiring their brains helps not only their athletic performance, but also every facet of their lives. I was recently working with a lacrosse and gave him a technique to rewire his brain regarding the anxiety he had when a scout was watching him play. The next session, not only did he report that his lacrosse skills were better but also that he was using this same technique to better control his anxiety when taking tests.
Is there a type of stress that can trigger a person to optimize their level of stress? How does that work?
It is not events, experiences or people that result in distress, or the negative component of stress. Rather, it is one’s interpretation of those entitles. This hit close to home for me when I was doing my postdoctoral training. I worked at a major trauma center, and one day I received a consult for an electrician who had been burned so severely working with a wire that was supposed to be inactive, that they surgically amputated both of his arms to save his life. While that might have instilled a depressive state in many people, this person was in an overwhelming state of gratitude, focusing on the fact that his life had been saved.
So, it is not what happens to us but rather our interpretation of what happens to us that can cause distress. As such, it is our mindset that can allow us to optimize our stress.
While we often think of stress as being a negative thing, it can actually be positive. In psychology, we call negative stress “distress.” Distress is pretty much any emotion you don’t want, such as anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, overwhelmed, helplessness, hopelessness…
Distress exists on a continuum from zero (not at all) to 10 out of 10 (the most distressed you’ve ever been). At high levels of distress, our negative thoughts tend to take over. I call the Red Zone when distress levels are at a seven out of 10 or higher. In fact, my most recent book, Get Out of the Red Zone: Transform Your Stress to Optimize True Success, is focused on this concept.
And in the Red Zone, people don’t always think or act the way they want to. As I tell my athletes, being in the Red Zone keeps you out of the Flow Zone, which is where optimal performance happens
What we say to ourselves can cause distress or it can cause more positive stress, what we call “eustress.”
Can you talk about what putting the “eu” in “stress” is?
Eustress refers to positive stress. It can include things like excitement, fulfillment, meaning and positive well-being.
Eustress and distress are caused by what you say to yourself. For example, when I am working with athletes and they have a setback, distressing thoughts would be something like, “I totally messed up; I’m a failure.” And those thoughts can hinder performance. A eustress thought might be something like, “Bring it on” or “Now I am going to try even harder.” This motivates the athletes to focus on what they can do now, as opposed to being upset about the past.
What can athletes do to optimize their full potential?
In order to optimize their full potential, it is vital that athletes cultivate their mindset. How we think can become a habit, just like a physical habit. Coaches often help athletes address their physical habits so that the most beneficial ones become automatic. Think of a golfer teeing off or a basketball player making a shot. The coach may offer specific feedback of how to hold their body or make the play even better.
Similarly, it is vital for athletes to develop cognitive or thinking habits that are most beneficial to them and that then become automatic. The goal is for athletes to control their minds instead of letting their minds control them. And the beauty is, these are skills that anyone can learn with the proper training. That is why, at EleVive, we work with athletes all over the country to optimize their mindset so they can perform to their fullest potential.
What advice can you give to athletes?
Never underestimate the power of your mind. This can have a positive impact on your confidence, your competence and your competition.
And realize that these are skills, just like the physical skills you now have in your sport. When you first started playing your sport, you were no where as close to preforming at the level you are now. You learned new skills and practiced them until they became automatic. The same thing can happen when it comes to your mindset. Learning the right skills and practicing them can allow you to transform your mindset, which will ultimately help you perform at your highest potential. It can also help you enjoy your sport even more.
For more information on Dr E or to order her new book, “Get Out Of The Red Zone”, visit her website www.elizabethlombardo.com